Often, the driver who rear-ended another vehicle is the one held responsible for payment. However, this isn’t always the case. Some scenarios leave the rear-ended driver liable. A third party, such as another negligent vehicle driver, could be responsible for the collision. Ultimately, who pays for a rear-end collision depends on the circumstances of the specific case. If you are unsure about your rights and liabilities in a rear-end collision, it is advisable to consult with a car accident lawyer who can help you understand the legal implications of your situation.

When Does Rear Driver Pay for a Rear-End Collision?

Although the driver in the rear is often held accountable for losses in a rear-end accident after all, that driver was the one who hit the other vehicle this is not always true. You may need evidence of careless behavior to demonstrate responsibility for the crash.

In rear-end collisions where the driver in the rear is responsible, even if you think fault is obvious, a case must show that they behaved recklessly, causing injuries and losses. Then the person who was rear-ended and injured could be entitled to compensation.

Examples of Negligence in Rear-End Crashes

Negligent behavior by the rear driver that can support a case includes:

  • Distracted driving
  • Tailgating
  • Speeding
  • Impaired driving
  • Aggressive driving

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), a vehicle can travel the length of a football field in five seconds at 55 miles per hour. As a result, those five seconds spent checking a text, changing the radio, or getting distracted from the road are enough to cause a crash.

Similarly, tailgating and speeding leave little room to avoid a rear-end collision. When driving at 40 miles per hour, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) suggests that, for every 10 feet of vehicle you are driving, you need one second to stop. As evidenced by the distracted driving example, in that one second, a car can cover a lot of ground.

A driver’s condition, both physical and emotional, can spell negligence as well. A driver who is drunk, drugged, or drowsy has slower reaction times, making it harder to stop in time to avoid hitting someone in front of them. Aggression can cause a driver to speed, tailgate, or react unexpectedly.

Connecting Negligence to a Rear-End Crash

If you were rear-ended by another car, to ensure that they face consequences for their negligent behavior, you need evidence. The other driver may claim you slammed on your brakes without warning, for example.

To battle having blame placed on your shoulders, your rear-end accident lawyer can employ:

  • Eyewitness accounts
  • Photos from the scene
  • Traffic camera footage
  • Bystander video
  • Crash analysis
  • Collision reconstruction
  • Police reports
  • Alcohol or drug testing
  • Phone or social media records
  • Medical information

These pieces of evidence work in concert. Combined, they can help solidify a case against the driver who rear-ended another vehicle.

When Is Another Party Liable for a Rear-End Accident?

Sometimes the driver in front is liable for damages.

Certain situations where this is the case include:

  • Lack of brake lights
  • Reversing
  • Sudden lane changes
  • Not pulling over when needed
  • Brake checking

A driver who knew about broken taillights and failed to replace them could be liable to pay for an accident. Even if they claim they didn’t know about their faulty lights, your legal team can work to demonstrate that they should have known.

If someone unexpectedly reverses, they could be held responsible for paying for the rear-end collision. Likewise, if they were driving in a risky way, like suddenly veering into another lane, their recklessness makes them negligent. Drivers are also responsible for mitigating harm if something is wrong. Failure to pull out of traffic after a blown tire, for instance, could make them at fault if they’re then rear-ended.

Particularly egregious is brake checking. This is when a driver deliberately slams on their brakes to force the car behind them to rear-end their vehicle. Sometimes, aggressive drivers do this to punish someone who is following too closely. Other times, they might go around a slower vehicle, cut in front of them, and brake check them. Regardless, this is not only negligent, but also, in many cases, illegal.

Phantom Driver Crashes

A driver avoiding another collision could rear-end a different vehicle. This is sometimes considered a phantom driver acciden. The driver who caused the crash wasn’t directly involved in it. They might not even realize they caused an accident.

Phantom driver crashes are often difficult to prove, especially if the phantom driver left the scene. However, that doesn’t mean getting them to pay damages is impossible. For instance, witnesses and traffic or security camera footage can identify the vehicle, helping you track them down to hold them accountable.

If a phantom driver is not found, the injured parties may need to file a claim with their own insurance company to receive some benefits. For instance, if you have uninsured motorist coverage, your insurer may pay some damages. Each state has different laws regarding phantom driver crashes, so talk to a car collision attorney about how to pursue compensation if this caused your rear-end accident.

Other Rear-End Scenarios

If you were the one who rear-ended another vehicle but believe faulty or defective auto parts were to blame, you and your legal team can discuss suing a product designer or manufacturer. For example, if your own brakes were faulty, causing you to hit the other car, you may not need to pay for the other party’s compensation.

Government entities can also pay if they were partly responsible. One example is getting struck by a city bus. Even defects in roads or signage can underpin a claim or lawsuit against a municipality. For instance, if the front driver had to slam on their brakes because of an obstruction in the road that the city should have cleared, the city might need to pay for both drivers’ losses.

Paying for a Rear-End Crash With Insurance Verses a Lawsuit

The answer to who pays for your rear-end accident can sometimes boil down to one answer: an insurance company. Whether the driver in front or the driver in the rear is held liable, the injured party typically files an insurance claim to pursue benefits. In some states, you file with your own insurance first, under your personal injury protection (PIP) policy. In others, you file with the at-fault driver’s insurer.

However, some instances complicate this, such as situations where you are deemed at fault but believe the front driver or someone else is at fault. Disagreements over fault can turn insurance claims into battles. Even if it seems straightforward that you are the victim, some insurers still try to limit their financial responsibility at every turn. The insurer may even deny your claim without an investigation or refuse to honor policy terms.

How Filing a Lawsuit After a Rear-End Collision Works?

You may need to pursue a personal injury lawsuit to help pay for a rear-end crash.

With a lawsuit, you:

  • File against the negligent party, not the insurance company, unless the insurer acted in bad faith
  • File within the statute of limitations, which is different in every state
  • Provide evidence connecting negligence to your injuries and damages
  • Can continue negotiating with the other party and even settle out of court
  • Can pursue more than one party with separate lawsuits
  • Can pursue uninsured/underinsured drivers for damages from their own pocket
  • Can receive compensation that exceeds insurance policy limits

If you feel an insurer is belittling your claim, blaming you unfairly, or not acting in good faith, a lawsuit may be the next step in your case. Likewise, if your losses exceed an insurance policy’s limits, or if the other party had no insurance at all, you may want to talk to your lawyer about suing.

Payment Options Can Differ by State

In addition to having distinct statutes of limitations, each state also has different laws regarding who can file a lawsuit.

Two questions to ask your car accident lawyer:

  • Does your state have a serious injury threshold?
  • Does your state cap certain damages?

Serious injury thresholds restrict injured parties from pursuing a lawsuit unless they suffered qualifying injuries like loss of a limb, disfigurement, or a spinal cord injury. Each state’s serious injury threshold has different criteria, but many allow some leeway. There isn’t a concrete list of conditions that are allowed. Instead, you may need to argue your case. Your attorney can help determine if your injuries meet the threshold.

Some states may also limit the amount of damages you can receive in a certain category. One example is non-economic damage. These damages are based on individual experience, but some states cap the amount you can receive.

Damages a Liable Party Could Pay for Rear-Ending You

Once you determine who pays for the rear-end collision you suffered, you can recoup compensation to cover:

  • Immediate medical care
  • Rehabilitation and therapy
  • Long-term medical care
  • Past lost income
  • Projected loss of earnings
  • Reduced earning ability
  • Diminished quality of life
  • Pain and suffering

No two rear-end accidents are the same, so there is no average value for this type of crash. Instead, you dictate your damages based on how the crash affected your health, state of mind, financial security, career prospects, and relationships.

For Payment, Keep Track of Losses From Your Rear-End Accident

Even a low-speed rear-end crash can cause injuries. Neck, back, and spine injuries are often associated with rear-end collisions. What’s more, injuries like whiplash can reduce your quality of life for years after an accident.

You may therefore have more damages than you think, especially spread out over the years following a crash. Holding a driver accountable for a rear-end collision is about more than just identifying them. Identifying the extent of your own losses is equally crucial to receive appropriate payment.

To make sure your compensation fully reckons with your losses, try to preserve any documentation related to your case.

This may include:

  • Hospital and doctor bills
  • Diagnostic testing expenses
  • Prescription and equipment costs
  • Receipts for out-of-pocket expenses
  • Employment records
  • Testimony from expert witnesses

Expert witnesses can range from medical doctors who can speak to your long-term health, to a psychologist who can testify about your mental health struggles in dealing with chronic pain. Even your employer can testify to how your injury affected your ability to work.

If this sounds overwhelming, you don’t need to keep track of this information on your own. Your attorney can organize your paperwork and track down records that will support your pursuit of damages.

Who Can Help Pursue Payment for a Rear-End Crash?

Determining who should pay for rear-end collision costs doesn’t have to rest solely on your shoulders. You can enlist the help of a law firm that handles these types of crashes. When you hire a firm, you hire an attorney’s entire team of support staff, including investigators who can sift through the events of your accident.

Even once your car accident lawyer identifies the liable party, your lawyer can:

  • File the necessary paperwork for an insurance claim or lawsuit
  • Explain the filing deadline for a lawsuit in your state
  • Determine if your state has an injury threshold or caps on damages
  • Present evidence of negligence and liability to argue for compensation
  • Maximize your compensation by researching all options for damages
  • Negotiate with the other parties for your payment
  • Recognize attempts to delegitimize your case or cut you out of damages
  • Handle evidence that demonstrates the extent of compensation you deserve
  • Help you with financial issues while you’re waiting for payment

Fundamentally, attorneys work on your case to make it easier for you, so speak up about your wants and needs. Any question about who pays, why, and how is valid to ask after an accident.

You Can Pursue Compensation After Identifying Who Pays for Your Rear-End Collision

Jacque D. Hawk - car accidents attorney in Augusta, GA area
Jacque D. Hawk, Car Accident Lawyer in Augusta 

Knowing who pays for a rear-end crash is just one step in the process of receiving that payment. A lawyer can explain what comes next, like talking to insurance adjusters, compiling evidence, and filling out paperwork to start working toward compensation. With the help of a personal injury lawyer in Augusta, you can feel confident that you’re taking the necessary steps to receive the compensation you deserve.